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Natural gem awaits discovery in Largo entertainment complex

As the morning dew glistened on the grass, I watched a great blue heron and a snowy egret catch their breakfast. I followed them around Highland Lake as they repeated takeoffs and landings in unison.

Several hyperactive squirrels darted between two oaks and a bottlebrush tree. I attributed their behavior to Wednesday morning's 55-degree weather.

As I walked the gravel trail, I could hear the rush-hour traffic on nearby Highland Avenue. A sliver of nature in crowded Pinellas County is indeed a precious commodity.

It seemed all the sweeter to find that tiny portion here, inside the Highland Recreation Complex, known more for its water slides and skate park than its hiking.

Three women jogged toward the baseball field. Their whispery chitchat as well as the mist from their breath floated up and away in the cold air.

A roseate spoonbill waded in the runoff creek. The sighting of the pink bird is one of my favorite thrills, and I have yet to catch one on camera. Once again, I wasn't quick enough to focus, but watching him fly also was a treat.

Before checking out the offerings at the children's play area, I caught sight of a patch of dewy ferns lit up by early morning sun. The patch spread more than 8 feet wide.

The misty fauna took on a Tolkienesque air with two pine trees, intertwined with a collective top, whimsical and swirly. Next to it, oak tree roots sprouted from the ground, creating a quirky stool. Of course, I sat down, waiting for fastidious Bilbo Baggins and his Hobbit friends.

If you go

36 acres featuring indoor and outdoor facilities including a gym, skate park, walking trails and the Highland Family Aquatics Center (open from May through October). • The public is encouraged to stay on the designated walking trails, which total about a mile, including a stretch of three-tenths of a mile around Highland Lake. • Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to noon Sunday. • For information: Visit www.highlandrecreation.com or call (727) 518-3016 .

Nature trails at the Highland Recreation Complex, 400 Highland Ave., Largo

Natural gem awaits discovery in Largo entertainment complex 11/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 2:43pm]
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